We used a lot of Uber in Washington, DC last weekend and had a decidedly mixed experience. In all honesty, I prefer Metro in Washington. Since my Uber rides in Los Angeles are nearly always flawless, I wonder if it was just my luck of the draw or a more common trend…
Our long-distance ride on Uber worked out well. Traffic was surprisingly light the entire journey. The driver smelled like weed, farted during the journey, played disgustingly vulgar stand-up comedy, and ate smelly food — which meant a more limited tip — but this was one of the better rides. I appreciated that he agreed to the trip and hope that it was worth his while for $235.59. I hesitated tipping, but felt he had gone above and beyond what he bargained for in driving over 200 miles.
Trip Two: Washington Union Station to Georgetown
A perfectly fine driver, though he had no concept of where he was going. Indeed, some of the main arteries through downtown Washington were closed in anticipation of protesters and the inaugural parade, but it took him 45 minutes to drive four miles and this was absolutely not necessary: there was only light traffic. We ended up going via U-Street to Florida Ave when several more direct routes were open. Cost of ride: $14.67.
Trip Three: Georgetown Apple Store to Park Hyatt DC
Another Uber Black for the price of Uber X and the driver was professional and courteous. This was a short journey. Cost of ride: $7.23.
Trip Four: Park Hyatt DC to Old Ebbitt Grill
A very nice full-time Uber driver who fiercely defended the way Uber treats its drivers (I brought up the negative comments on my blog concerning the Newark to Washington trip). He asserted he works 40 hours per week driving for Uber and averages $26/hr. Doing the math, that is $54,080/year. Some of the roads were still blocked around the White House, so we were let off about two blocks away from the restaurant. Cost of ride: $8.80.
Interestingly, he mentioned that Uber was subsidizing all DC drivers on 01/20/17, paying them “triple time” to drive on inauguration day due to the surge in demand.
Trip Five: Old Ebbitt Grill to Park Hyatt DC
I ordered the Uber from Lafayette Square just north of the White House and received a call from the driver asking me to walk down to 19th Street, which was three (long) blocks away. He claimed traffic was too bad to get to where we were. It was not. It took us seven minutes to walk to him and since Uber charges a flat rate now, it’s not like I saved any money. The driver was nice enough — from Georgia — and shocked to hear that I had been to Tbilisi. Cost of ride $11.11.
Trip Six: Park Hyatt DC to Washington Dulles
This was the greatest annoyance. We checked out of the hotel at 4pm and summoned an Uber. Our ride showed up at 4:06p and the driver opened the trunk for us. We put our bags in and sat down in the back seat. He asked us if we were going to National Airport. No, Dulles we said. He responded, “Oh, I can’t do that. You need to get out of my car.” I was flabbergasted and asked him to clarify. He claimed he was not allowed to go to Dulles. I called him a liar and asked him the real reason. He stated, “Well, I can go, I just can’t go now. Please get out of the car.”
So we did. The jerk did not even cancel the ride himself. He drove off in “ride in progress” mode and I had to cancel it in the app. A $9.00 fee was charged. Needless to say, that was later reversed and the driver was left a single-star rating. This was the first time I have ever given a rating that low.
That was supposed to be a $68 ride and when I went back in to order another Uber, surge pricing had swelled the fare to $123! We headed back into the lobby and sat down for a few moments. The fare dropped to $73 and I ordered another Uber to Dulles. The driver, who cannot see the destination until he begins the ride, called me up and asked where I was going. I told him the airport. He asked which one and when I said Dulles he replied, “Okay, I’m a few minutes away.”
Seconds later he cancelled the ride.
The fare dropped to $47 and we finally found a driver willing to take us to Dulles — just 30 minutes after we started. He was shocked to hear about what had just happened and said these drivers are just “lazy”. I think “greedy” is the better term than lazy, because I understand doing shorthaul rides within the District is more lucrative than a long ride to Dulles and no fare on the way back.
Still, I thought the premise of being an independent contractor for Uber was that you take both the ideal and less ideal rides.
Next week: A post on how my attitude toward tipping on Uber has evolved. What is your experience using Uber in Washington, DC?
image courtesy of Mark Warner / FLICKR